I LOVE hot pot. I also miss hot pot. With the pandemic and restrictions, dining in a hot pot restaurant is effectively non-existent. Honestly I’ve been wondering if the pandemic will shutter a lot of local hot pot spots.
I hope that’s not the case because going for hot pot is a lot more convenient than cooking it at home, BUT if you want to (er—well, have to during the pandemic) do it from home, it’s really not that hard!
Mike and I chose to do Home Hot Pot for our New Year’s Eve and in typical Mike and Linda fashion, we miscalculated the amount of ingredients we’d need so we ended up doing hot pot for two additional lunches and dinners (lol! I’m a proponent for too much food and leftovers than not enough food and no leftovers).
I realized I had never blogged about home hot pot before, and ended up getting a fair bit of questions about what hot pot is after I posted on social media, so what better thing to do than to blog about it!
How to Hot Pot From Home
A useful and not overly complex guide for what it is and what you need in order to have it at home.
What is Hot Pot?
For simplicity’s sake, I often describe hot pot as “Asian fondue” and better than regular fondue (lol). While regular fondue I feel tends to be more dessert-y, and you wouldn’t really eat or drink the fondue sauce, with Chinese hot pot you can very much (and should) slurp up the soup-based broth that cooks the meats, seafood, and vegetables! Hot pot is a more savoury-focused cook-your-own meal in a pot than fondue!
Simply put: hot pot is cooking your own ingredients in a pot that is hot. The name for the meal describes a cooking method as well as the food experience you’re going to have. The pot is filled with broth that boils and it’s that boiled broth that cooks different ingredients you add to the pot throughout the meal.
There’s a lot of interesting history to Chinese hot pot. For instance, it is said to have originated over 1,000 years ago. created by Mongol warriors who “camped outside and had dinner together circled around a pot on the fire—it was a way to keep warm, while eating at the same time” (source: Hot Pot Ambassador).
It may also be referred to as ‘steamboat’ or ‘shabu shabu’—which are similar concepts (cook ingredients in a hot soup-based pot) but have slightly different techniques and origins.
Chinese hot pot is also considered a communal, community-focused meal. Growing up, my family would go for hot pot and as a child, I’d often share my pot with my parents and siblings. It’s common in hot pot dining to cook your ingredients in a communal pot. That’s how it started, though modern hot pot and restaurants these days offer individual hot pots. Individual pots make a lot of sense because you can really individualize your hot pot experience—the sauces you use, the meats, seafoods, and vegetables you put into your pot, these are all aspects of hot pot that should be very unique to each person.
- Check out this amazing history of hot pot written by Tingwei Zhang:
- Chinese Hot Pot: a Communal Food Culture (Dec 23, 2019)
When I introduced my husband Mike to hot pot, and we shared a pot, he initially hated it because I put in so much seafood in my pot, he was put off by the fishy flavour. Eventually we tried “lovers hot pot”—pots with a divider down the middle so you can have two types of broths in one, ensuring each person gets to make their broth and pot their own, to their specific tastes. This divided individual pot is what we use when we hot pot at home. In restaurants, if given the option for one communal pot or individual pots, we pick individual.
What Do You Need To Hot Pot At Home?
The first thing you need to ensure before you Hot Pot at Home is that you’ve got time for the experience.
Truly, lol. Hot pot isn’t a quick meal. It takes time to cook your ingredients. It takes time to eat and enjoy what you’ve cooked. And then it takes time to repeat the process. You can’t just dump all your ingredients in the pot at once. It’s a thoughtful cooking process with varying factors—some ingredients take longer to cook, some food you want to eat right away, some ingredients you like to have just a few bites of while others you ensure you make seconds, thirds, and sometimes even fourth servings for.
And if you think back to that communal, community aspect to hot pot, you also need to consider incorporating time to socialize with those you’ve chosen to hot pot with (pre-pandemic—intimate hot pot home parties with dear friends. During pandemic—intimate hot pot home parties with your household cohorts who maybe you’re already pretty sick of so perhaps conversation is sparse lol).
So, make sure you’ve set aside a good chunk of time for hot pot. When I hot pot in a restaurant, I know it’s at minimum a two hour experience (could be longer, but I actually think many hot pot restaurants have two-hour dining limits now too lol).
Now in terms of the tangible things you’ll need to create an at-home hot pot experience:
- A portable hot plate (electric / induction stove top)
- Stainless steel pots
- Plates, bowls, and other dishes to hold all of your ingredients
- Hot pot soup base (or ingredients to create your own hot pot broth)
- Sauces for your hot pot (chili oil, satay, soy sauce, etc.)
- Meats, seafoods, vegetables, and other ingredients (specific recommendations below)
Where Do You Buy Hot Pot Equipment and Ingredients?
Assembling everything you need for hot pot used to be a lot more work, but as of writing this post (2021), it. couldn’t be easier to find what you need for Home Hot Pot—especially if you know where to go.
In Edmonton for instance, Asian supermarket HMART literally has an entire section dedicated to hot pot, complete with various pre-made hot pot soup mixes, a variety of pre-cut (thinly sliced) meats, an assortment of seafood balls, vegetables, hot pot equipment (pots, spoons, portable stove tops), and more.
I’m also told that Kim Fat Market (Edmonton’s Chinatown) also has a lot of great hot pot items including hot pot kits so if it’s you’re first time and it’s all feeling a bit overwhelming, Kim Fat Market’s got your back!
If you’re reading this beyond Edmonton, your best bet is to look for your city or town’s Asian grocery store. Though you can certainly get portable stove tops or hot plates from any number stores that sell kitchen appliances, and you can pick up most of the meat and vegetable ingredients at any grocery store, it just may not be pre-sliced the thin, hot pot way (but you can cut it yourself too).
You can also get almost all the equipment you need on Amazon, but I’d recommend your local shops first!
We got a lot of questions after I posted our New Year’s Eve Hot Pot about where we got our plates with sauce holders—those came from a fondue set we got years ago! So if you like something like that, search for fondue plates. Or, small side dishes to hold your sauces works just fine too.
What Hot Pot Ingredients Should You Get?
These ingredients below typically grace our Home Hot Pot, but is not the definitive list by any stretch.
You can refer to these other hot pot resources for more suggestions on hot pot ingredients:
- Omnivore’s Cookbook – Chinese Hot Pot Guide
- Serious Eats – Everything You Need To Know To Make Chinese Hot Pot at Home
But basically you’re going to want a selection of meat, seafood, vegetables, and noodles.
When Mike and I do Hot Pot at Home, we usually have these ingredients as part of our spread:
- Imitation Crab Sticks
- Fish Balls
- Beef Balls
- Bok choy
- Enoki Mushrooms
- Bean Sprouts
- Udon Noodles
- Vermicelli Noodles
- Steamed White Rice
For broth, you can buy pre-made hot pot soup bases and sauces that just need to be added to boiling hot water or chicken broth for ease. Or you can really just create your own broth starting with hot water or chicken broth—then add your own preferred sauces. But the pre-made bases specifically designed for hot pot aren’t expensive so to keep it real easy, might as well just grab those!
A Few More Hot Pot Tips
Now here are a few other tips for your hot pot experience that are specific to my personal preference. Not all hot pot aficionados will agree with me, and maybe you won’t either but this is how I hot pot!
- Drink the broth!!!! It gets more and more delicious as your ingredients cook in it. Don’t waste the broth, I slurp it throughout my meal and if there leftover broth I save it to eat as leftover soup.
- Eat your hot pot with rice! This is perhaps one of the most controversial hot pot things I do within my friend group—many who see filling up on rice as a waste of stomach space when you’ve got meat and seafood to get in there lol, but as my mom always tells me, you’re never really full without a bowl of rice and in hot pot’s case, rice goes so well with your meat and seafood and it’s also excellent dipped in the hot pot broth!
- I like to put sauces right in my broth as well as have sauces on the side to dip my cooked ingredients in too. Even if you’re using pre-made soup mixes, feel free to add additional favourite sauces, garlic, garnishes. If you’re using a basic chicken broth, absolutely add more sauces! In hot pot restaurants I used to buy the upgraded broth but after awhile it just made sense to get the chicken broth (included with your meal price) and level it up yourself using the provided free sauces.
- Mike’s ideal hot pot: all meat, nothing else lol. But I think you should be more adventurous than that! I prefer a balance of meat, seafood, vegetables and noodles / rice, but please consider experimenting to determine what your ideal hot pot is! Usually having hot pot in a restaurant with someone who has had it before allows you to more easily experiment and try different things since it’s all you can eat and you have someone showing you different things you could try. When you’re picking ingredients for home hot pot you are usually only picking ingredients you already like, but don’t be afraid to venture out of your comfort zone. Try a fish ball. Pick up a different type of noodle. Be adventurous!
- Consider cook times. You might be able to find recommended cook times for certain hot pot ingredients for your first go at it, but most hot pot meat is thinly sliced enough that they cook almost instantly in the boiling broth. Vegetables and noodles take a little longer to cook. Seafood I would also leave in a little longer just in case. If you take a bite into something and it doesn’t feel quite right, toss it back into your pot for a few more minutes! Over time and repeat hot pot experiences, you’ll get a better sense of how much time you need to cook your ingredients. Remember if you overpack your pot with stuff it’ll take longer for everything to cook so don’t do that lol.
- On that same note, don’t use the same utensils to handle raw food as you do your cooked food! Make sure you use different utensils to pick up and place tour uncooked ingredients in your pot. Or you can use the other end of your chopsticks to handle raw (but I find just having separate utensils is easier so you don’t forget lol).
- Better to have leftovers than not enough food! Our general approach to eating, lol when you go to buy hot pot ingredients, don’t worry about whether you have *too* much food. In fact, when planning home hot pot, you should expect to have home hot pot for a few meals (if it’s not a big group eating). Leftovers are good! Just don’t waste the food.
So that’s pretty much what you need to know to create a delicious Home Hot Pot experience!!
I certainly hope hot pot restaurants survive the pandemic—and there’s a lot I love about going to a hot pot restaurant versus cooking it at home (namely that it’s cheaper (all you can eat / buffet!) and you have more access to more ingredients)—but hosting hot pot at home is always a fun and tasty time, and a nice way to satisfy the hot pot cravings (because believe me, once you hot pot, you’ll get regular hot pot cravings lol) while we wait for restaurant dining rooms to safely reopen.
If you’ve had hot pot before, share your favourite ingredients or pro tips in the comments!
If you’ve never tried hot pot, make 2021 (or whatever year it is when you read this post lol) the year you try.
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